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Posts tagged ‘Organizational Learning’

Haury’s Rules

This past weekend I visited the Kaufman Museum’s exhibit: In the Fields of Time. On a card, tucked into an experience station, I discovered a card with Dr. Emil Haury’s rules for his anthropology courses.

Several of these rules resonated with me. Patricia Crown included these in Remembrance of Emil Haury. She writes, “He repeated these rules in every course he taught and he lived them.” I share them here, hoping that some of them will speak to my readers as they have to me:

  1. Never wear a hat while giving a professional talk.
  2. Never use jargon.
  3. Avoid the use of the word “very” in professional writing.
  4. Try to have one good idea every day.
  5. Keep a research journal at all times and write down those good ideas.
  6. When your research project is complete, look at your journal and perhaps there will actually be one or two good ideas in there.
  7. Write three pages on something every day, you can always throw them out later.
  8. Always write your introductions last, so that you specify what you plan to do after you know what you have done.
  9. Living conditions make or break field schools.
  10. At the end of the semester give your teaching assistant a large bottle of the alcoholic of his or her choice.
  11. Treat everyone as if he or she has something intelligent to say, even if they don’t.
  12. You may try to quit archaeology, but once it is in your blood, you will never get away.
  13. People with wacky ideas are important to the profession in forcing the rest of us to clarify our arguments.
  14. Don’t try to change anything your first year in a new job, or you will wound some egos.
  15. If you are lost in the desert, the one thing you need most for survival is a piece of string.

From: Crown, P. L. (1993.) “Remembrance of Emil Haury,” Kiva, 59(2):261-65.

Which rule connects with you? Do you have a story to illustrate a rule?

persistance of memory – What have you learned today?

My Aunt Elizabeth and I were talking last night about the fact that each of us remembers different shared experiences. What she recalls easily – I do not, and visa versa.  I remember my Uncle Don taking us for a drive on Interstate 80 in Nebraska before it was paved. We drove down the paved ramp at Beaver Crossing onto the eastbound lanes, then covered only in gravel. We cruised with the convertible top down at 20 m.p.h to the next exit at Milford. What makes that memory so strong for me? Are memories personal or are they constructed through the stories we tell?

Neuroscience is still exploring how memories are made and persist. Yi Zuo of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and her colleagues assessed how dendrites (branches between neurons) form in mice based on three different types of activities, compared to a control group that did nothing out of the ordinary. Her results: dendrites appear, grow, persist, and disappear in response to training and learning.

 “I think it is a very active process,” Zuo says. “The neurons work very hard to form clusters, to place spines close to one another. Even after a short training period on the first day, a mouse makes a lot of new spines—they might make double what they make in an ordinary day, but these spines are not clustered. Only after repeated training are they clustered.” Previous work in her lab demonstrated that new neural connections form within an hour of the training session.

As human beings, memories are created because our brains are constantly open to change. Memories grow and persist when we are actively experiencing, discovering, learning, and telling our stories. Life-long learning is essential.

What are you actively learning and discovering? What memories have shaped you or your organization?

The Biology of Learning
Spine Tuning: Finding Physical Evidence of How Practice Rewires the Brain

Together alone

I am guilty of contributing to the rise of what Susan Cain calls the New Groupthink. I have clients do exercises in “table groups.” I conduct brainstorming sessions. I observe companies creating tiny, open “collaborative” workspaces. They build on the concept with flexible workspaces – the kind where the employee gets a rolling cart and choses a new space each day.

Are these suddenly outdated? No. Research shows that people are happy in a workplace where they have friends, a trusting atmosphere, and a free exchange of ideas. But, research supports the other side of the equation too: the need for personal space to work in quiet and solitude.

Privacy and uninterrupted time allow for learning and creating new ideas. The freedom of space and time allows our brains to quiet and focus on the one task at hand. IPNB tells us that autonomy motivates and stimulates creative thinking. Cain quotes organizational psychologist, Adrian Furnham. “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.” Companies who offer employees private space benefit from increased quality and quantity of work.

The counterintuitive evidence in the research is that people who collaborate remotely outperform other teams. While more research is needed, the hypothesis is that the electronic distance allows us to be “together alone.”

There is a balance: a need for interaction and idea exchange – and – a need for privacy and uninterrupted time to think. I’m considering how I structure my engagements, classroom, and work time.

What ideas does this stir for you?
(Note: Blogs fit into the “together alone” category!)

Read the full article: The Rise of the New Groupthink
Creating a space for critical thinking

Have you used any “bullets” lately?

Those of you who have attended one of Friesen Group’s training sessions on public speaking and presentation know that we recommend the minimalist approach to PowerPoint slides. So you may have already guessed that I’m not talking about those kind of bullets – you remember, the bulleted list.

Instead, I’m writing about an idea from Great by Choice. Collins and Hansen tell the story of the Captain of a warship that has a limited amount of gunpowder. One option is to use all of the gunpowder to fire one big cannonball to disable or destroy the other ship. Problem: if it misses, there are no resources left. The wise Captain will instead fire a few bullets first – “ping” – “ping” – “ping” – to discover the best trajectory. Once discovered, the remaining gunpowder can be used to fire the big cannonball – at the precise trajectory needed to accomplish the desired outcome.

A “bullet” in an organization is a calculated, creative test. It is a “low-cost, low-risk, and low-distraction” experiment. Successful organizations are disciplined and innovative. They try multiple ideas. They iterate, trying again, making adjustments, measuring carefully. If they fire a bullet that misses, they aren’t critically crippled. When they fire a bullet that hits its mark, they can commit additional resources to exploit the opportunity.

Need ideas for creating and firing “bullets?” IDEO and the Stanford have published processes for doing disciplined, creative research that leads to results: Methods

What “bullets” are you firing, measuring, and validating?

Commit to disruption

Great by Choice

“I love the straightforward title,” said a friend about Great by Choice. And, like Collins’ previous work, the book is as straightforward as the title. Collins and Hansen seek to answer their question, “Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?”

Their research uses their standard research method: compare matched pairs of companies using market data and original documents. These companies were chosen for achieving spectacular results, while navigating uncertainty and chaos in their industry, and for being vulnerable early in the time window as young, small, entrepreneurial companies.

The value I found in this book is that it adds detail to Collins’ idea that great results are driven by disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. Through stories drawn from their research and stories of explorers and adventurers who demonstrate the traits, Collins and Hansen make the case for what discipline looks like:

  • 20 Mile March – the discipline to have understandable and rigorous performance mechanisms.
  • Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs – the discipline to blend creative methods with the ability to amplify its value.
  • Leading above the Death Line – prepare when things go well, manage risk, ask the tough questions.
  • SMaC – Specific, Methodical, and Consistent – make operating practices visible and replicable.
  • Return on Luck – Luck happened, both good and bad; the question is what return did you get on it? But the most important kind is “Who Luck” – the luck of finding the right “mentor, partner, teammate, leader, friend.”

Each chapter ends with a summary and a list of questions. Even if you find yourself arguing with Collins and Hansen’s methods or opinions, the questions are worth asking about your business and your self.

Who is your best luck?

Uncertainty as Opportunity
A vision is not a destination

Off the grid

I’ve been “off the grid” for a few days. It was enforced by being in several National Parks, including Glacier and Yellowstone. Places with no internet service and no cellular service. Places where there is no dopamine rush to the brain from the instant gratification of looking up an answer to a question, checking email, or immediately calling someone with information.

The feeling of calmness that came from disconnecting from the digital world is starting to fade as the demands of life appear again. But the time to think, to really “be” with family, and to stand in awe of the natural world brought renewal and new ideas.

As I was catching back up with the blogs I follow, I discovered Daniel Pink’s recent post: The Genius Hour: How 60 minutes a week can electrify your job. He writes about the power of taking one hour a week for improving skills or seeking out new ideas. The credit union in the story makes it happen by putting it on the schedule, having the boss pitch in, and getting the ideas implemented and skills used. Pink includes links to articles about Google’s innovation time and Atlassian’s Fedex Days.

Since I can’t live in the National Parks, I will remember that one hour a week can make a difference. And, I’m considering ideas from How Genius Works about how to best use that hour .

What would you do with one hour a week to dedicate to mastering a skill or learning something new? What difference would it make in your organization if each person had one hour to dedicate?

Meetings and other wrecks

One-third of all wrecks happen within one mile of home. My theory is that when we are close to home, we are blinded by the familiar. We drive without attention, saying, “I don’t recall the details of getting home.”

Routine meetings and conversations often suffer the same fate. One Monday morning team meeting looks much like the one last week. The video of the town hall with the CEO could be transplanted from one quarter to the next. The strategic planning session mirrors the one from last year, and the year before . . . .

David Whyte’s poem, Sometimes, says, “… stop what you are doing right now, / and stop what you are becoming while you do it ….” My intention is to being noticing more of the immediate world around me, when I’m driving and when I’m in meetings.

When is the last time you made the effort to hold a meeting or conversation that went beyond the familiar, the ordinary? What are the questions that trouble you and won’t go away? What is on your stop doing list?

The allowed list

Does your organization have an employee handbook? Do you have policies that “have someone’s name on them” – you know, the ones that were added to address one person’s behavior? Is there an invisible handbook with rules about “the way we really do things around here”?

These sentences all ran through my mind as I read Simon Sinek’s post, You Are Allowed. He has five rules that are “to do” – not “don’t do,” which I repeat here:

1. Make the decision you think is the right decision to make
2. Start something that needs to be started to help advance the cause
3. Ask for help whenever you want it
4. Help others whenever you can (even if they don’t ask for it)
5. Take time off to do something that inspires, excites and energizes you

If I could add to the list:

6. Try something new at least once a week and let everyone know what you learn

What would you add to the “allowed list”?

Stories we tell – four

We are defined by our stories, which continually form us and make us vital and give us hope. Stories teach and preserve traditions and practices and policies and values. I don’t know many people who prefer a manual to a myth.
– Max DePree, from Leading without Power

Stories we tell – three

Improving your brainstorming sessions

The quickest way to improve brainstorming sessions is to put away anything with a keyboard.

Why? research in neurobiology demonstrates that using our hands to write and draw transforms experience. Manipulating a writing instrument activates multiple neural pathways: visual, spatial, sensory, and motor including both sides of our brain as we process graphical and factual data with multiple senses. Drawing on a flip chart or paper with colored markers to draw images alongside the text activates additional neural pathways. Employing a writing instrument, creates attention and focus as we form letters and pictures, looking at where the instrument touches the paper. Even the hand we’re not writing with is active in keeping the paper aligned.

[With a typewriter …] the word no longer passes through the hand as it writes and acts authentically but through the mechanized pressure of the hand. The typewriter snatches script from the essential realm of the hand – and this means the hand is removed from the essential realm. The word becomes something ‘typed.’ … Mechanized writing deprives the hand of dignity in the realm of the written word and degrades the word into a mere means for the traffic of communication. Besides, mechanized writing offers the advantage of covering up one’s handwriting and therewith one’s character. – Martin Heidegger

Writing with pen, pencil, or marker is an embodied experience that increases learning and generative thought processes. What impacts of this research can you imagine for writers? Educators? Trainers? Strategists? Designers?

For inspiring ideas on going analog in brainstorming, check out Duarte’s photos and blog post about advanced stickynoting.

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